Having just read Harold Henderson’s article on the Cliff Dwellers (October 28), I am struck by how greed seems to be the victor over culture once again in Chicago. The city recently gave permission to developers to wipe out a square block of historic architecture–including a unique Mies van der Rohe interior–on Michigan Avenue to install yet another high-priced shopping center. Now the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is about to wipe out a 90-year-old cultural organization so they can provide their rich patrons with an exclusive place to schmooze with each other after concerts.
Well, hey, that sure sounds like an invaluable contribution to the city’s cultural life! As opposed to the democratic nature of the Cliff Dwellers, where artists, writers, and musicians sit elbow to elbow with attorneys, politicians, and just plain folks, let’s install a clubhouse where people with enough disposable income to sink a battleship can sit around and trade stories about their investment portfolios!
I say, shame on the Chicago Symphony! Shame on Henry Fogel and the whole board of trustees! Henderson’s article only briefly mentions that the Cliff Dwellers give financial support to a variety of smaller cultural institutions in Chicago. Those contributions to the city’s cultural life will be lost with the demise of the Cliff Dwellers. But then, what difference do those little ($1,000) grants mean, if it helps fatten the megabudget of the Chicago Symphony? When a money-hungry developer mows down the city’s history to make a profit, it’s almost understandable. For one cultural institution to swing the wrecking ball on another is completely reprehensible.